5 Ways to Successfully Handle an Exit Interview

How to Handle the Departure of Irate Employees

Exit Interviews with Irate Employees Are Tricky

For the most part, exit interviews are an excellent opportunity for employers to have a final conversation with their departing employees. They can be used to gain perspective from an employee on how well the team is working together and what areas might potentially need improvement.

But when an employee is leaving on not-so-great terms, an exit interview can be a potential minefield. As an employer, it’s up to you to keep the exit interview on a professional level while still being somewhat compassionate to your soon-to-be former employee.

Here’s how.

5. Do It In Person

While an exit interview can be handled by email, phone, or in person, it’s best to do it in person with an angry employee.

Sure, it may be uncomfortable to sit in the same room with someone who is leaving on less than stellar terms, but it shows your employee a much-needed sign of respect to do it in person. If your employee has a remote job within your organization, you should try to have him come in for the exit interview, if possible.

It also grants both of you an opportunity to have clearer communication that might be missed if you do it via a questionnaire or over the phone.

4. Be Prepared

It’s imperative to be prepared for your employee’s exit interview.

Have a list of specific questions and topics that you would like to cover during your conversation. That way, if he or she gets heated during the interview, you can both keep your cool—and stick to the topic at hand—by focusing on your questions.

3. Hear the Employee Out

It can be painful to hear a laundry list of complaints that your exiting employee may have. But it’s important to let him/her speak during the exit interview, especially since this will probably be the last time to do so.

Try to avoid interrupting, and practice active listening instead. Also be aware of your body language; you don’t want to come across as aloof, bored, or potentially hostile. Above all, you should make the employee feel he/she is being heard.

2. Take Notes

Even if your employee is less than happy about leaving the company, an exit interview can provide useful information that can be used to potentially restructure areas within your company or workflow.

That’s why you’ll need to take specific notes during the interview. Depending on the flow of the conversation, you might want to ask extra questions beyond what you have written on your list. As a bonus, taking notes also lets the employee know he/she has valuable input that is being seriously considered.

1. Remain Professional No Matter What

Let’s say your exit interview with an irate employee gave you a wicked headache and raised your blood pressure to a dangerously unhealthy level. That doesn’t mean you should just show your exiting employee the door in a curt manner.

It’s imperative to be professional and gracious throughout the entire process. When the interview is over, be sure to stand up and shake hands. Thank him/her for the time and contributions to the company, too.


While it shouldn’t be your ultimate goal to change his/her mind about the company, you do want to have your employee leave on the best terms possible. So even if your employee is unhappy, you should aim to have a well-prepared and professional exit interview. That way, you know that you’ve done everything possible to make the experience the best it possibly can be.

employment, Hiring, HR, interview